“Mother Tedium, Mother Laborious, Mother I’ve done gone defiled Suspiria so should sob at the hem of Argento then be sentenced to helm Sharknado sequels in hell (for an hour).” While a joke like that might seem severe, one can imagine writer/ director Luca Guadagnino whimpering it in the minds of horror fans left ditched and indifferent by his discordant adaptation of Dario Argento’s masterpiece. Suspiria (2018) is a total, colossal but cryptic failure (like John Boorman’s Exorcist 2: The Heretic or Neil LaBute’s The Wicker Man) and possibly a greater calamity than plastic cash-in remakes: Poltergeist (2015) and Flatliners (2017), considering the talent behind it. Cast members Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, with composer Thom Yorke and Call Me By Your Name cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, lock horns with Guadagnino for a clunky re-hash/ car-crash cacophony that sits insipid and soulless on screen like an inanimate piss pulped slap of off-taupe wallpaper in the flat of a snoring nan. But not your nan, as there’s no love there.
Guadagnino’s visuals, writing and assembly/ method fails to encapsulate what made the original Suspiria so exciting and dynamic. Argento let black magic flood into and intoxicate Suzy Bannion. When Suzy exits the airport in the opening scene she is swept away into an unreality of neon Goblin clashing, cackling and sparkling rural, majestic darkness. In Suspiria (2018), Luca Guadagnino tells the same tale within the brutal, rain-soaked confines of Berlin (1977) which, through accurate rendering, spays Suspiria’s magic and mystery instead of acting as its conduit. Guadagnino’s Berlin authenticates with post-war modernist architecture under a grey, hoary sky and addling political context. But this is all made monotonous next to the psycho-ballet, twisted witchery and mysticism, which in turn, looks gaudy or moulded from a cut-rate realist/ Grand Grimoire. Like dropping a Red Velvet cupcake in a drugged meat broth then trying to eat it with chopsticks.
This mismatching of landscapes and climates with story/concept is one of the poison darts, but its key problems lies within David Kajganich’s screenplay which spends too much time locked in dead-end conversations, where characters deliberate but don’t deepen, or drive the narrative. Kajganich didn’t write Call Me By Your Name, but did write The Invasion (2007). He here plaits story strands, including a police investigation and new character of Dr. Josef Klemperer (Tilda Swinton), to take precedence over the central narrative, before derailing it into a clogged up plot cog swamp. At one point, a characters asks: “Why is everyone so ready to think the worst is over?” which instils trepidation for all the wrong reasons, because it makes one wonder if Suspiria is going to get more monotonous. Another cries: “This isn’t art! There is something wrong here. Something’s not right! We need to stop this now!” which prompts the internalisation: “They know! Why are they doing it?” And in that brief moment, Suspiria becomes brilliant, but this swiftly passes, leaving one staring deep through the screen, lobotomised by fatigue and locked in a metaphorical cine-coffin.
The characters are plastic cadavers (despite the talent behind them) and impossible to care about because of bad writing, like vacant slasher/ DTV teens who gazelle into gory graves. It’s distressing at times because of the blood jetting, lacerations and bone cracking abundance, but this is a hackneyed shock tactic employed by lesser imaginations or artists like Guadagnino, who are just not good horror film-makers. Suspiria is almost fright free (maybe to the point where it’s not even a horror). The dream sequences slack like a faux riff on Ringu or The Exorcist while elongating the obvious into migraine making monotony. Guadagnino feels like he is working within a suffocating remit, but his anguish might be one reason why his failure is so thought-provoking. Its wonky assemblage of incredible talent needs to be seen (twice) to believe how bad it is. The vacillating script has a latched on epilogue that acts as the deadweight which sinks Suspiria into committing the greatest cine-sin of all: being boring to the point where one can imagine what it feels like to be shot in the head with a tranquiliser dart and then left by some bins in the rain.